1.5 – Why Hard Work Matters in Law School
Why Hard Work Matters in Law School
In this lesson, I want to just hammer home something I think is really important, which is that you need to understand that hard work is going to matter a lot in law school. I think the sooner you can get this in your head, the better. I think sometimes people don't figure this out until halfway through the first year, or maybe their second year, or maybe even later in law school, and they wish they had understood it earlier.
The reason is, there's a lot of different kinds of undergraduate programs where maybe you have to work some, but a lot in terms of your grades is really going to turn on just being smart. There's certain kinds of classes you can take where maybe you don't keep up with what's going on during the semester, but you write a really good paper in a week of effort at the end of the semester, and you get an A.
Maybe you figured out a way just to write something that sounds really good but doesn't necessarily reflect everything that the professor was teaching over the course of this semester. Law school doesn't work that way. I don't mean to say that having certain kinds of raw talent isn't helpful. Sure, being a really good writer, having a really good memory, being really clever—all those things can be helpful to you in terms of your grades, but there isn't a way to fake your way through law school.
~~Law school exams~~ are designed to test how well you learned a complicated set of legal rules. There isn't a way just to fake your way through that. There isn't a way to do that without actually learning the law that your professor has been teaching. There aren't real shortcuts there. You can't just not do the reading the whole semester and read Cliff's Notes and do really well. You do have to really understand the law. And the sooner you figure that out, I think, the better.
Again, just remind yourself what I was telling you earlier: law school is a ~~professional~~ commitment, and to have a successful career, to have the kind of career that you want, it makes sense to put in a certain amount of work on the front end, to really make sure that you're learning. But as always, I try to pair what seems like bad news with good news, and a couple of things about that.
Slow and Steady Efforts
First of all, I think it's ultimately good news for you that hard work matters in law school because again, it means that your performance in law school is not going to be foreordained on day one. Instead, it's going to be, to some degree, a reflection of how much you put into law school. It's not just an intelligence test by any means. Instead, there are people who have great natural talent but are just not going to be mature enough to put in the effort, and those people are not going to succeed.
I think if you remember the very classic fable from Aesop of the tortoise and the hare, the tortoise is much slower than the hare in this fable, but nonetheless wins the race because he just keeps walking towards the finish line. The hare is really fast but gets lazy, takes a nap, and doesn't actually make it to the finish line in time. I think that is very much true of law school, that it's going to be more of a reflection of whether you're willing to just do what you need to do and put in the effort to get to the finish line, rather than just trying being able to kind of race your way to the goal at the very end of the semester without putting in the work along the way.
Smart WorkRight work and not hours matter
The other piece of good news, though, is that when I say you need to work hard, I don't mean that law school grades are just a function of exactly how many hours you put in. Because I've seen this too. I've seen people in law school who just grind out hour after hour after hour, studying in the library, but don't end up performing as well as they want to. The reason that happens, I think, is that people confuse effort with results.
I think what you need to do is you need to put in the right work. You need to put in a certain amount of work to get to the right level of understanding that you can perform at your best on a law school exam. But that doesn't mean that just it's about the raw number of hours. There actually may be diminishing marginal returns after a certain point where additional hours are not going to make you perform better.
Instead, you need to figure out how to work smart, not just work hard. Figure out what are the kinds of things I can do that are going to help me achieve the goal I want to achieve. What is the kind of effort I can put in that will be high leverage in terms of helping me achieve good results on law school exams, that will help me get the kind of grades that I want to get, that's going to help me kind of have the career I want to have?
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